- Obama Says Bernanke Fed Term Lasting ‘Longer Than He Wanted’ (Bloomberg)
- Merkel Critical Of Japan's Credit Policy In Meeting With Abe (Nikkei)
- China Wrestles With Banks' Pleas for Cash (WSJ)
- Biggest protests in 20 years sweep Brazil (Brazil)
- Pena Nieto Confident 75-Year Pemex Oil Monopoly to End This Year (Bloomberg)
- G8 leaders seek common ground on tax (FT)
- Putin faces isolation over Syria as G8 ratchets up pressure (Reuters)
- Former Trader Is Charged in U.K. Libor Probe (WSJ) - yup: it was all one 33 year old trader's fault
- Draghi Says ECB Has ‘Open Mind’ on Non-Standard Measures (BBG)
- Loeb Raises His Sony Stake, Drive for Entertainment IPO (WSJ)
There was non-Fed news in the overnight market. Such as Nikkei reporting that Germany's Angela Merkel was the first G-8 member to be openly critical of Japan's credit-easing policy "that has led to the yen's weakening against major currencies" in what was the first shot across the bow between the two export-heavy countries. Not helping risk in Asia was also news that China May new home prices rose in 69 cities over the past year, compared to 68 the prior month, thus keeping the PBOC's hands tied even as the liquidity shortage in traditional liquidity conduits continues to cripple the banking system and forcing the Agricultural Development Bank of China to scale back the size of two bond offerings today by 31% "as the worst cash crunch in at least seven years curbs demand for the securities." Rounding up Asia were the latest RBA meeting minutes which noted the possibility of further weakness in AUD over time, adding downside pressure on the currency and pressuring all AUD linked equity pairs lower. Still, the USDJPY caught a late bid pushing it above 95 on some comments by the economy minister Amari who said that the government would not be swayed by day-to-day market moves and the BOJ "should continue making efforts to convey its thinking to markets" adding the government was not making policy to pander to markets, confirming that Japan is making policy solely to pander to markets.
Few others are better equipped to comprehend both the insider's and outsider's perspective on what the government, the Fed, and the banks are doing in this so-called 'recovery' we are experiencing than David Stockman. Nowhere does he detail this better than Chapter 31 of his new book 'The Great Deformation'. In this first part (of a four-part series), he explains just what happened after the US economy liquidated excess inventory and labor and hit its natural bottom in June 2009. Embarking upon a halting but wholly unnatural "recovery," doing nothing but igniting yet another round of rampant speculation in the risk asset classes. The precarious foundation of the Bernanke Bubble is starkly evident in the internal composition of the jobs numbers.
"The power of the press (and the nouveau press)! Following a very solid open, stocks maintain their early gains until FT Harding hits the tape with an article suggesting a signal from Bernanke this Wednesday that the taper was drawing near – in contrast to the more dovish Hilsenrath last week. Stocks drop nearly a percent. Then via Twitter Harding casts doubt on his own predictions and more than half of those losses are reversed. The price action just reinforces how important the FOMC Wednesday will be."
"Recent bouts of positive correlation between equities, bonds and commodities suggest that the Fed’s stimulus inflated prices of financial assets, and removal of the stimulus could create a tail event in which prices of most of assets could go down. To reduce this risk, investors could diversify ‘safe haven’ assets away from treasuries and into other assets that are at lower risk in case of tapering. For instance, investors could increase allocations to equity index put options.... we think that the quick increase of net margin debt, and high ratio of margin debt to S&P 500 do point to an increased probability of a market correction and volatility increase in the second half of the year." - JPMorgan
It seems not only the entire developed world is sick and tired of Hilsenrath's "leaks" which have now become so grotesquely self-contradictory, not even Hilsenfollowers can make out the Hilsenfact from the Hilsenjoke. So it appears the Fed has now picked the FT as its interim pass through vehicle: "Ben Bernanke is likely to signal that the US Federal Reserve is close to tapering down its $85bn-a-month in asset purchases when he holds a press conference on Wednesday, but balance that by saying subsequent moves depend on what happens to the economy."
So let’s see what happens on Wednesday. The markets will likely rally until then on hopes of more juice from Bernanke. But if he should disappoint at all (read: not announce something more or at least strongly hint at doing so) then buckle up.
Iran is a right old sorry state (of affairs). Plunged into recession, inflationary pressure that Abenomics wouldn’t mind having a bit of and Bernanke might just be getting if he carries on printing the greenbacks at the rate they are churning out of the Federal Reserve faster than a Ford-T in 1908.
Our "silver lining" concluding remark to last week's lackluster 10 Year bond reopening auction was that "the good news is that with the reopening, dealers should have some additional collateral for a while, or at least until the Fed monetizes it. Look for this CUSIP - VB3 (On The Run) to remain on the POMO exclusion lists for white a while." Sure enough, following the Friday settlement of this auction, things in the Treasury repo market have normalized somewhat after hitting very dangerous levels. How bad did it get? The following chart of failures to deliver from the NY Fed shows just how acute the shortage of "high quality collateral" (where the 10 Year is the fulcrum instrument) got in the past two months, with the total rising to $129 billion, or the biggest freeze in the repo market since the debt-ceiling crisis in the summer of 2011 when this number hit $280 billion.
And yet another baffle with absolute and unbelievable BS economic number is out, this time the Empire Fed index which magically spiked from -1.43 to 7.84 on expectations of a 0.00 print. We say magically, because besides the headline number, virtually everything else was down! To wit: New Orders down, Shipments down, Unfilled Orders down, Delivery Time down, Inventories down, Number of Employees down, Avg Workweek down, should we continue? The Empire Fed report admits as much: "The general business conditions index—the most comprehensive of the survey’s measures—rose nine points to 7.8. Nevertheless, most other indicators in the survey fell." Almost as if the NY Fed apologized for having to make up headline numbers.
In the week ahead, we get the usual middle-of-the-month batch of early business surveys, including the New York Empire, Philly Fed and Eurozone Flash PMIs. The second key focus will be a number of important monetary policy meetings, including the FOMC, as well as the Swiss, Norwegian Turkish and Indian policy decisions. The latter two are particularly interesting in the light of the recent EM weakness. The main event this weak will be the FOMC meeting after the recent market focus on the timing of tapering of the QE3 program. Swings in bond markets related to the FOMC meeting could be the primary source of FX volatility this week.
First it was the "most important" payroll print in years, then the "most important" retail sales number, and now we are just days ahead of the "most important" FOMC statement in years as well, as the fate of the centrally-planned markets lies in the hands of Bernanke's decision to taper, or not to taper. The main catalyst for now still appears to be an ongoing wrong interpretation of Hilsenrath's Thursday blog post in which some still see reaffirmation by the Fed that it won't taper, when all the Fed's mouthpiece said is that the short-end would be anchored even as the long-end is allowed to rise. Looking at the well-known no volume levitation futures action, which in the overnight session has wiped out all of Friday's losses and then some simply due to a 2.73% rise in the Nikkei overnight back above 13,000 driven by the USDJPY briefly regaining 95.00, the market has made up its mind (if only for the time being) that whatever decision the Fed takes regarding the monthly level of liquidity injection is a bullish one. At least until it changes its mind next.
Overview of these week's key developments
In the six weeks since the last FOMC meeting there has been almost uninterrupted relatively 'hawkish' chatter from Fed members. However, the consensus remains convinced there will be no 'Taper' anytime soon - as somewhat evidenced by the following summary of FOMC expectations from Goldman's Jan Hatzius. So the question is - if, based on the 'economy' there is a belief that no Taper will occur - why has the Fed been so 'hawkish'? We suspect, as we have noted numerous times, the decision to 'Taper' (or at least jawbone 'Tapering') is not economically data-driven but more a growing concern over technical impacts on the Treasury (fails and excess ownership) and mortgage (non-economic spreads crowding out private money and huge build in convexity) market and the bubble-like rational exuberance across every asset class that they have created.